After years of suffering in oblivion, it suddenly seems like the people of North Africa are finally taking charge of their own destiny with radical, history-making changes. For most countries, it involves trying to get rid of the dictators who have ruled them for decades. However, for the continent's largest country, Sudan, the issues were much more deep-rooted - Ones that could only be resolved, by spiltting the country in two. On February 7th, over 99% of the people of Southern Sudan, voted to secede from the North, giving birth to a new Nation.
On July 9th, Southern or South Sudan, will become an autonomous country - complete with its own flag, constitution and most importantly, a government selected by and comprising of the people of Southern Sudan. Hopefully, this will end unrest in a country, that has been at war with itself, for more than three-quarters of the time, since independence.
Sudan, which was under the joint rule of Britain and Egypt, became an independent nation in 1953. However, the new government reneged on the promises made to the people of southern Sudan, leading to the country's first civil war in 1955 - One that lasted 17 years!
In May 1969, Colonel Gaafer Nimeirie came to power and managed to appease the Southern Sudanese, by promising them some autonomy, finally bringing the civil unrest to an end. However, not everyone in the country, which comprises of many ethnic groups, was happy with him or his pact with the Southerners.
Therefore, it was not surprising that when he was ousted in 1985, the civil unrest began again. While several attempts were made by countries all over the world, to try get the people to reconcile, it was not until 2002 that the historic Machakos Protocol, named after the town in Kenya where the peace talks took place, was signed. The discussions continued from thereon, until 2005, when a comprehensive peace agreement was signed. This established a new Government of National Unity and an interim Government of Southern Sudan and more importantly, outlined a plan for wealth and power-sharing that met with both parties approval. Since then, things have been moving in a positive direction, finally ending with this week's historic separation.
Southern Sudan has a lot of challenges - It has to figure out how to come up with a fair constitution, a new currency, a government structure, not to mention controlled development. For this new nation of 8 million residents is largely rural, one where even the capital city of Juba, is largely undeveloped.
It may therefore take some time to figure it all out. However, with some support and nurturing from established countries like the USA, we are confident that this 'baby nation' will soon grow and be a formidable force - One in which peace and prosperity will reign - Something the people sorely deserve, given their long and often brutal path to freedom.
Resources: wikipedia.org, US department of State